It’s a new year— with proclamations of “New year, new me” and a long list of positive personal and professional resolutions. However, the reality is that most resolutions are abandoned by February, largely because the goals require too drastic of a change. To ensure success, the trick is to start small.

For example, if you vow to become a morning person and want to start your day earlier, the drastic solution would be to set your alarm for the desired hour on January 1st. This requires an immediate change to your day-to-day routine – a complete shock to your system. Easing into the change is a more sustainable solution, with incremental shifts week by week until you are waking up at the desired hour.

In the business world, prioritizing learning is a challenge for many professionals – including myself. In fact, a LinkedIn Learning report cites it as a top challenge for learning and development (L&D). Each week, I aspire to make time for learning, but week after week I fail to carve out any time for my personal development. The good intentions I start the week with quickly diminish as new tasks, meetings, emails and phone calls consume my time.

So, what’s it going to take for employees to make time for learning? How can employees adapt to changing work conditions while prioritizing their own development? As with any goal, we must start small.

Be protective of your time.

In a perfect world, you would choose which projects to work on and which meetings to attend. The reality is that most employees do not have that degree of control over their workload. They are assigned work tasks as they come up – adding new bullet points to their already long to-do lists. To gain more control over your schedule, employees should block time on their calendars to devote to professional development. By proactively setting aside 30 minutes or an hour, employees can ensure they have the time – assuming it doesn’t get bumped for an “urgent” meeting or project – for learning.

Plan your development goals.

Employees should work alongside their managers to set learning goals and identify the competencies and skills that need to be developed. Managers should tie those skills to the business to help employees see how those skills apply to their roles and help the organization. What success looks like needs to be clear to both the employee and the manager. Regular check-ins on learning goals should be scheduled and properly assessed.

Celebrate small learning moments.

Learning opportunities do not need to be big undertakings like a multi-day conference. Learning can be done on a smaller scale by reading popular articles or research reports and attending a one-hour webinar or virtual roundtable discussion. Learning occurs throughout the workday with peer-to-peer interactions. People can learn new things in the kitchen while waiting for their coffee to brew. Learning doesn’t need to be formal for it to count. At the end of every day, think about those small interactions and take stock of the insights you’ve gained.

Make learning count.

Enabling employees to make time for learning is a key initiative for many managers and organizations this year. With limited time to devote to learning, L&D must champion personal development on behalf of all employees. They must become more creative in order to help employees find the time and resources to solve problems in the context of their workflow.

In today’s modern workplace, it’s challenging enough to pause your focus long enough to answer the phone let alone focus on learning something new. Through active involvement from L&D and managers, employees can take the time they need – and deserve – to develop their skill sets and move their careers forward.

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